Posts Tagged ‘photoblogger’

Interview with David Nightingale of Chromasia

David Nightingale is the photographer behind Chromasia, an award winning photoblog that was selected as “Best Photoblog” by numerous publications, and was ranked as the 6th most influential blog in the UK by the Financial Times.

Portrait © Bobbi Lane (www.bobbilane.com)


_DSC0002

PetaPixel: Can you tell me a little about yourself and what you do?

David Nightingale: I’m a photographer, currently living in rural Bulgaria with my wife and six children, and am working on a range of projects, including; my own online tutorials; a new book; and a variety of personal photographic projects.

PP: How did you come to live in Bulgaria?

DN: We met someone who lived out here, and the more we looked into it the more we liked what we saw. The climate is great, the people are friendly, and the cost of living is very low. We still have our house in the UK, but plan on spending most of the summer months here, if not longer.

PP: Can you briefly tell me about chromasia.com?

DN: chromasia.com started in early 2004, as a personal photoblog, and for the first couple of years I attempted to post an image a day after being inspired by such blogs as Daily Dose of Imagery.

In the early days, it was definitely no more than a hobby – something different to do when I wasn’t thinking about my day job. As time went on though, chromasia became quite popular and we began to receive requests for prints, some small commissions, and so on.

In June 2005 we received a major commission from the Arts Council, UK, at which point my wife and I decided to set up chromasia as a limited company. At this time I was still working as a psychology lecturer in a UK university, and chromasia, though it was now a business, was very much a part-time concern.

Towards the end of 2006 though, two things happened. First, my university was offering a voluntary severance package – i.e. paying to get rid of some of us :) – and I was offered a contract to write a book on baby photography. Both events convinced us that we could run chromasia as a full-time concern.

Since then we’ve carried out a number of major commissions – for the Bahamas ministry of tourism, a winery in Germany, and the Dubai International Financial Centre – have written a book on HDR photography, and have established our own online Photoshop tutorials, for which we now have over 1500 subscribers.

dn7

PP: I noticed you said “we”. What role does your wife play in the business?

DN: While I’m fairly confident that I know what I’m doing with a camera and post-production, Libby, my wife, has a much better business sense than I do. For example, our online tutorials were her idea, and now form the major part of our business.

PP: How did you first get into photography? When was it, and what was your first camera?

DN: I first got into photography when I was quite young, probably about seven years old, as my father allowed me to use his camera to take the odd shot during our family holidays. With the benefit of hindsight he probably just wanted a few frames with him in too, but at the time it seemed like a great honour. :)

When I was around 18 though, I bought myself a Canon A-1 and a couple of lenses, and taught myself black and white developing and printing. I never managed to produce a print I was entirely happy with, but I had a lot of fun with the process.

PP: Do you still shoot film?

DN: No, I haven’t shot film for quite a number of years now.

dn1

PP: You have nearly every professional piece of gear Canon offers. What are your favorites?

DN: Well, not quite – I don’t have a 1DS Mark III, or a 5D Mark II. :)

As for my favourites: I love my cameras (a 1Ds Mark II and a 5D), but these are incidental; i.e. they’re just a way to capture the image, and both have their strengths. My favourite pieces of equipment are my lenses. And while I’m not sure I could pick a favourite I would probably have to say that my 35mm f/1.4 and 70-200 f/2.8 IS are the ones I like shooting with best. The one I shoot with most, which is also a great lens, is my 24-70 f/2.8, but it’s not as much fun as the other two.

PP: Could you tell us a little about your favorite lenses?

DN: The 35mm f/1.4 is a stunning lens, especially when shooting wide open, and it’s probably one of the sharpest lenses I own. In terms of features though, the 70-200 is extraordinary. Using the IS I can shoot at 1/50s, which is great for low-light shooting, the DoF is extremely shallow at f/2.8, and it also produces exceptionally sharp images. It’s only downside is that it’s really heavy.

PP: What is the item at the top of your wish list?

DN: That’s a difficult question, as there are two pieces of kit that I’d really like at the moment: the 5D Mark II, and the 85mm f/1.2. If I had to choose one of them though I suspect I’d go for the 85mm f/1.2.

dn3

PP: You seem to take a lot of photographs from strolls on the beach. Could you tell us a little about that?

DN: One of my favourite ways of relaxing is to take a walk along the beach, photographing either the landscape, or any items washed up along the shore. In some ways, though I’m not sure I could explain it all that coherently, walking along the shore and taking photographs is one of the ways I can lose myself in the moment.

PP: What would you say are the most important elements of post-processing that photographers should focus on mastering?

DN: I don’t think there’s an easy answer to that one, as post-processing is part of a much larger process – one that starts with optimising a digital exposure (assuming you’re shooting with digital kit), through understanding how best to manipulate an image to produce a technically optimal image, to achieving a goal that meets both technical and aesthetic criteria. In short, I don’t think that any particular part of the process is more important than any other. You need to understand the technology, both in terms of what it can do, and how it can be used, and you need a good understanding of a whole range of post-production techniques that will allow you to explore the creative potential that each image offers.

dn2

PP: Did you have any memorable breakthrough “AH HAH!” moments as you were learning more and more about photography and post processing?

DN: It happens all the time, but I think that the biggest breakthrough in my own work was when I realised that converting the RAW file (using ACR, Capture One, or any other software package) was probably the most significant step in producing a good final image.

PP: Could you explain a little into why that is?

DN: I think the major reason that this stage is so important is because you can make specific changes to a RAW file – during the conversion process – that result in a higher quality image than if you make the same changes during post-production in Photoshop. In other words, getting the RAW conversion right, whatever ‘right’ might mean, is probably the most important step.

PP: How many images would you say you’ve taken since starting Chromasia? How do you store and back them all up?

DN: I’ve lost count of how many I’ve taken, but it’s tens of thousands of images, all of which I store on two RAID devices: one in the UK, one in Bulgaria. My nightmare is a tech failure leading to me losing any of my images. By having duplicate RAID devices in 2 countries I’m hoping that that won’t happen. :)

PP: What is your opinion regarding HDR? A lot of photographers seem to hate it, while you’ve done quite a lot with it.

DN: I think it’s a useful technique, and one that can be used to produce very effective, if not unique, images. I also think it’s a technique that lends itself to being done badly; i.e. the software doesn’t really care what the final image looks like, and will produce quite hideous results unless you’re careful to think through how to use it and what sort of images you want to produce.

My own view, at the moment at least, is that if one of my images ends up looking like a typical HDR image, then I probably didn’t do it right. In other words, it’s a technique I use, but one where I want my own style to be the first thing the viewers sees, not the fact that it’s an HDR image.

dn6

PP: What are some of the questions you’re asked most often by your fans?

DN: The most common question, and most general one, is “how did you do that?”, i.e. how did I post-process a particular image. And this question was the impetus for our online Photoshop tutorials. An alternative, especially when I also publish the original, unedited shot, is “why did you do that?”; i.e. why or how did you decide that that’s how you wanted the final image to look?

PP: How long do you spend on the average image you post online?

DN: There isn’t an average amount of time, it really depends on the nature of the shot and the extent of the post-processing, and could be anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours. Typically though, I’d guess that I spend about 30 minutes to an hour on each shot.

PP: How often do you shoot? How many shots do you take during each outing?

DN: I shoot as often as I can, which isn’t often enough, and there isn’t a fixed amount of shots that I would take during a specific outing. Oddly, the shoots that tend to work best are the ones where I take less shots – where I spend more time thinking about composition, lighting, and so on. One of the best things about digital photography is that you can take thousands of shots during a shoot, and it doesn’t cost you a penny, but this is one of the worst things about it too; i.e. it’s just too easy to rattle off hundreds of shots – because you can – without pausing to think through each one.

dn5

PP: What words of advice would you give an aspiring photographer hoping to get where you are in photography?

DN: I think that the best piece of advice I can give is that any aspiring photographer should try and work out what they’re best at, then hone those skills. In my case, I’m known for my post-production – and that’s what I tend to concentrate on, at least for most of the time – but for other people, other skills will be more important.

On a more general level, we live in a world where photography is everywhere – there are countless thousands of photographers, producing good work – so being a good photographer is only a part of the story.

What’s also important is finding ways of getting your work out there – by joining photographic communities, being active in a variety of social networks, and spending time thinking through how to get yourself noticed. It’s not easy, and it’s not photography, but it is essential if you want to make any progress in the world of photography.

I read somewhere that that the business of photography is 90% business, and 10% photography, and after working as a professional photographer for the last few years, sadly, I would have to agree.

PP: Which communities are you a part of? What are some of the best avenues for getting your work noticed?

DN: I think there are two ways to get your work out there …

First, you can join any number of online photographic communities, such as photoblogs.org, photos.vfxy.com, coolphotoblogs.com, and so on. Second, I think that social media will become increasingly important in the years to come, i.e. twitter, facebook, and so on.

Social networks, in many ways, have replaced something that we seem to have lost in modern society; i.e. they are the new ‘local’ communities, played out on a global scale. As such, if you want to make progress as a photographer, being a member of such communities is becoming increasingly more important.

dn4

PP: Who are some of your favorite photographers?

DN: Historically, my favourite photographer is Ansel Adams, as he managed to marry both technical and aesthetic genius; i.e. understood his craft in a way that far outstripped many of his contemporaries, and he could use that craft to produce images that are still awe inspiring today.

From a contemporary perspective, I think that my criteria are slightly different; i.e. there are many great photographers out there, but my favourites are the ones who, in addition to producing great photographs, also have something to say and something to teach. For example, David Hobby (strobist) and Zack Arias both produce great images, but they have both taught me a lot in terms of my own photography.

PP: Who is one person you’d like to see interviewed on PetaPixel?

DN: Ansel Adams.

Failing that, Zack Arias would be great, as would David Hobby or Chase Jarvis.

PP: Anything else you’d like to leave PetaPixel readers with?

DN: This refers to one of the points I made earlier, about honing your skills …

Practice, practice, practice, and when you’re bored of practicing, practice some more. Photography is a craft skill – you need to know your tools, and what they can do – and the only way you can truly know their strengths and limitations is through constantly pushing them and yourself to produce images that meet or exceed your creative expectations.

Interview with Faisal Sultan of friskyPics

Faisal Sultan is the photoblogger behind friskyPics.


faisalsultan

PetaPixel: Could you tell me a little about yourself?

Faisal Sultan: I’m 33. Male. Born in Karachi Pakistan. Sort of lived all over in cities like London, St Louis, MO (where I went to university), San Francisco where I moved to right after college to join the dot-com boom… They were apparently just handing out jobs back then in the late 90s and I joined this startup that had no business plan nor idea what they wanted to do – but hey, it was San Francisco and I was living history! I’m a techie / geek / nerd at heart and profession. Currently working in a business / product role for a huge media / Internet company in New York City. Besides photography, I also enjoy running my own Internet radio station and record label… So with all that stuff going on, I have no “free time” nor do I get much sleep. I anxiously await the day they invent cloning technology so I can clone myself into 3 Faisals.

fs7

PP: How did you get started in photography?

FS: I’ve always been sorta into photography. Growing up we used to take loads of vacations as a family and my father used to take our pictures so I used to play around with his Yashica. When I bought my first digital camera about 8 years ago: a canon SD 100 or something, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I only really got into “photography” until only about 5 years ago, when I bought Canon Powershot G4. After that I bought my first SLR the Nikon D70 and the rest is history I guess.

It was mostly me looking at photoblogs via photoblogs.org, looking at some of the amazing pictures people were posting back then and thinking to myself, “hey I wanna get as good as those people are one day”. Or, thinking, “I would have taken that shot differently”. That’s really how I got into photography as an “art.” I still don’t think I am an any good tho – and I still get really humbled when people say that they like my work. I feel like I haven’t even learned 20% of what photography is.

PP: Why do you take pictures?

FS: I take pictures for purely selfish reasons: for myself. I like to take a moment in time, frame it, and make it my own. I know that once I have taken that shot, it’s like taking a moment in time and history all for yourself. This might come across as overly dramatic but that’s really how I feel. Bottom line: I take pictures for myself. All those folks looking at and appreciating my work is a huge added bonus!

fs4

PP: When did you start friskypics, and how many photos have you posted since then?

FS: I’m actually coming up on friskyPics’ 5 year anniversary in October. Before Oct 2004, I used to post images on a ghetto picture gallery script I wrote myself on my blog site. On friskyPics, I must have posted about 800 images thus far. I had an HD crash about 3 years ago and had to reboot the photoBlog and lost most of the older shots – which is fine by me, as some of my earlier work was horrible.

PP: So you lost hundreds of photographs permanently in the crash?

FS: Unfortunately, most of them yes. That thought me the valuable lesson of backing up the HD! Some of them are still on my HD, which I might or might not publish in the archives. I’m actually working on a redesign of the photoblog, so I might post all of the old photos then.

PP: Have you taken additional steps since then to make sure you don’t lose photos again?

FS: Yep. I have an external HD which I backup weekly, in addition to MAC’s Time Machine backups. I also have all my RAW images backed up on Amazon’s S3 cloud. So I think my work is safe now.

fs5

PP: What equipment do you use these days?

FS: Nikon D700 with a 24-70 2.8 lens most of the time. 50mm 1.8 when I don’t feel like lugging around the huge lens. I also love the 85mm 1.4 lens for some street photography. For those point-n-shoot moments I have a Leica D-LUX 3 that goes with me everywhere. Besides those two cameras, I also love my Holga! There’s nothing like shooting with that thing! So much fun!

PP: What’s on your wish list?

FS: Aaah don’t get me started! I’ve been lusting after a Leica M6 rangefinder for ages. I really want to get into film and I feel M6 would suit me and my style best. Besides that, I really really really want a good solid medium format camera. If money was no object, I’m get a Hasselblad 503 tomorrow! But realistically, I’m say a Leica M6 is what I’m probably gonna buy in the very near future.

PP: Why did you go with Nikon over Canon?

FS: You know, I’m not one of those people that think one is better than the other. They are simply brands. I don’t really get all the “canon fanboys” doing all the promotions for Canon by always talking about how Canon is the next baby Jesus. In the end, the camera doesn’t matter. I always get a little bit ticked off when people focus too much on the equipment and not the person behind it. That’s why I never ask other photographers what they used to take a shot. What really matters is the person behind it and how you chose the subject and frame your shot. But why did I personally go for Nikon? Well, I got a great deal on the Nikon D70 when I was shopping for an SLR. That’s how I ended up as a Nikon user. Sorry – went on a little tangent there. :-)

fs2

PP: Could you briefly tell me about your workflow?

FS: You know – I’m aware that my workflow sucks. I’m a little bit of a disorganized person so anyone reading this should copy this workflow at their peril: I download all shots from the memory card into Lightroom. I organize them either by day, event, or if I went to a particular place to shoot (eg: Empire State Building) I will name the folder that way. From there, I will usually work on the curves and contrast a little, nothing more than you would normally do in a dark room really. Once I’m happy with it, I will import into PhotoShop CS4 to work on Levels some more. I don’t usually do any other post processing other than Levels and Curves. Sometimes, when I’m feeling adventurous, I use masks to do custom levels and curves on particular areas of the image. Other than that, I don’t manipulate images too much. I usually take a shot knowing how I’m going to process it. If you start off with that one image in your mind’s eye, processing seems almost natural.

PP: What’s the one thing you’ve learned since starting out that has had the biggest positive impact on your photography?

FS: Good question. Nailing it down to just one thing is gonna be next to impossible so I will say this… I’ll say the most important thing I’ve learned is that I really don’t know anything. Looking at all the other photographers that I follow everyday, looking at their work makes me realize how much I still have to learn. And that really is a good thing – because I know for a fact that I can learn so much more from these folks and push myself in my work. I’ve always learned that in the end – I do this for myself. It’s easy to get seduced by popularity and trying to get more and more people to look at your work – and that might lead you to start posting images that you think your “audience” might like. I post images first and foremost for myself, as a way for me to keep track of my photography. It just so happens that since it’s on the Internet, others can enjoy it too… or not enjoy it and tell me that I suck. Entire way – it really doesn’t bother me. However, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it when people email me and tell me that they enjoy my work. It’s the best feeling in the world.

fs1

PP: What is your favorite type of photography?

FS: I’m say the photography I most enjoy shooting is abstract and urban landscapes. I love shooting buildings and other city structures. I also like taking a normal subject like a building, and challenging myself to find a new, unique way to photograph it. Lately though, I’ve been getting more and more into shooting humans. If you look at my archives, you’d think that I live in a world with no humans – I almost never shoot any pictures of people or with people in the frame. The reason is two fold: I like desolate, vast open and empty spaces. Another reason is that I know my limitation, I know that I’m not that good at photographing people. And that’s something I’ve been pushing myself to get out of my comfort zone and shoot more portraits etc. I have a series that I’m working on at the moment that I’m pretty excited about. It involves people! I hope to post it to celebrate the 5-Year anniversary of my photoblog.

PP: How often do you shoot, where do you go, and how much do you shoot at a time?

FS: Not enough. But lately I’ve become “that guy.” The guy that cannot step outside the house even for a minute without his camera in tow. So now, wherever I go I take my camera with me. But besides that, I will normally go out to shoot something specific once every 2 weeks or so. I wish I could shoot more, but I simply don’t have enough time with my job and my “other job” running the station and record label… It’s exhausting… Photography is strangely relaxing for me though – so when I’m feeling stressed or burnt out, I will go out with my camera and try to shoot. Usually on an outing I will take about 120+ shots – most of them end up as crap but there’s always that one shot that I end up liking…

fs3

PP: Do you get a lot of comments through your blog? What are some common things you’re told or asked?

FS: There’s a bug in my photoblog code that makes it impossible for people to comment using IE that I need to fix. But yea usually I get a few comments per shot – which is nice. But I’m thinking of getting rid of commenting altogether in the redesigned blog site that I’m working on. I’m also working on a “portfolio” site where I want to showcase some of what I feel is my best work. But yea besides the “nice shot” and “nice perspective” comments, which are nice to get BTW, I also get comments from people asking me about how I processed the shot, or what lens I used. I also got an email from a photography student, asking me for my feedback on their work, which I thought was mind boggling… I mean I was very honored, but I really don’t think I’m any good – there are sooo many other better photographers out there.

PP: What advice do you have for people looking to improve in their photography?

FS: I know its cliché, but I’m say the best advice I can say is shoot shoot shoot. You can’t really learn this in a classroom. Starting out, people used to ask me if I have taken any classes and I used to tell them I don’t believe in taking classes to learn photography. Confession: Even a year into my photoblog, I had no idea what the “rule of thirds” meant. The point is, the technical side doesn’t matter – it will come thru practice. And once you go out and shoot, you will start to learn things like the right settings and exposure controls for a particular shot or subject. So yea, shoot shoot shoot. Then go out and shoot some more. Push yourself into being creative and out of your comfort zone – be bold.

Also: try not to get sucked into trends or what’s “popular”. Case in point: HDR. It’s popular, but is it photography? No it isn’t. Please, be a friend, don’t do HDR.” There, I HAD to say something about how much I hate HDR.

fs6

PP: Who are some of the photographers you follow online?

FS: I follow these folks daily – or whenever they have a new post up: Jessyel (dailysnap), Miles Storey (MUTE), Andy Bell (Deceptive Media), Daniel Cuthbert (Hmmm), Fredrik Olssen (Smudo), Bob (No Traces), and Your Waitress. I also love Daily Dose of Imagery, and Orbit 1 (although I don’t visit it everyday). Gosh so many people that inspire me every day!

PP: If you could have one person interviewed on PetaPixel, who would you choose?

FS: I’ll say Daniel Cuthbert. He’s not only a good fashion photographer, but a great photojournalist as well.

PP: Is there anything else you’d like to say to PetaPixel readers?

FS: Well, you’re still reading this interview so I guess you are interested in what I have to say so I will take this opportunity to say thanks for reading and checking out my work. Now go out there and do it too. Push yourself to take better pictures and remember that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” photograph – like art, photography is subjective. That’s you should why remember this: if you’re not doing this first and foremost for your own self, you should probably take up another hobby. Also: don’t just use one camera to shoot pictures. Some of the best shots I’ve seen have been taken by toy cameras or even iPhones. So try to get out of that “camera makes the shot” mentality.

Interview with Otto Kitchens of ottok photography

Otto Kitchens is the photoblogger behind ottok photography.


ottok

PetaPixel: Could you tell me about yourself?

Otto Kitchens: I live right off downtown Atlanta, GA in an old Victorian house with my Ocicat cat, Sam. I’ve been in Atlanta for most of my adult life. I work in the IT industry as my current day job, a necessary evil to help fund my photography. I would love to do photography full-time, but right now that’s not possible.

PP: How did you first get into photography?

OK: I got a Canon AE-1 film camera in high school and used it through college, but never really passionately. Then I started doing big vacations with a friend every year. My introduction back into photography as a passion began then, wanting to better record my travels.

I started with a basic point-and-shoot film camera and then decided to jump on the digital bandwagon. My first was a pretty basic 2MP HP digital camera. Then I progressed to a Canon G2, I think. I kept hitting limitations with what it was able to do, so I finally got a digital SLR, a Canon 20D. It was also around this time that my passion for photography progressed beyond my travels. Then I started to capture the more local world around me.

I eventually got back into film, starting with the ever popular Holga. Then it was like a light bulb went off and so more about the potential creative side of photography became clearer. Then I started obtaining other film cameras and started using my digital SLR less and less. Until finally, my digital SLR became forgotten in my camera cabinet. I now have almost 30 film cameras, mostly medium format but also some 35mm cameras as well.

I also got into working in the darkroom and signed up for a course at a community art center to learn how to develop my own B&W film and make my own B&W prints in the darkroom. Now I develop my own B&W film at home and still go into the darkroom to do printing as often as I can. I love shooting color and B&W film. My cameras range from the high end, my beloved Hasselblad 501CM and Pentax 67, to the downright “crappy” plastic cameras with little to no settings, and I use that lovingly. I also have several pinhole cameras as well. In fact, I just got a new old camera from eBay, an Ilford Sporti, made in the late 50s to early 60s.

ottok3

PP: What do you like about film photography that caused you to put your digital gear aside? Most people seem to go the opposite direction.

OK: Yeah, I know. Heh. I’m not sure… it’s hard to put into words exactly. There is something tactile about film; it can be gritty and dirty, magical even. I don’t have that same feeling with digital. This is just a personal response. I have nothing against digital at all as I credit it for getting me back into photography and finding my real passion in life. Who knows one day I might shoot digital again; I still follow the new advancements, etc. If I had to get a digital camera now, I’d get the new Canon 5D Mark II – well, I’d save up for it. :-)

PP: How much time does your hobby take you?

OK: Oh wow, a lot. Usually at least and hour or two a day during the work week, and potentially a whole day each weekend, if not more. It’s the weekends where I get out to shoot when I can. It’s hard to do that during the week. If I am getting ready for a show, my involvement takes a lot more time.

PP: How about money? How expensive is this hobby for you?

OK: Well, it wouldn’t be so expensive if I’d quit buying cameras. :-) But yes, it has been expensive, but totally worth it. The personal fulfillment that photography gives me is incredible – I can’t imagine not doing it now.

ottok1

PP: What is your favorite type of photography?

OK: I like doing all of that really. No particular one is my favorite. It really depends on my mood and the subject when I go out to shoot. I usually take 2-4 cameras with me, each with its own characteristic. Once I get somewhere and get a feel for the place, I’ll use one or more of the cameras to capture either what I’m seeing or what I’m feeling about the location, be it on a country road or an abandoned building. If I’m at a single site, I’ll usually walk around the area without a camera in hand to get a sense of what it is like and what grabs my attention. And it’s then when I’ll start shooting.

I may be at a location for a couple of hours but only take about 36 or so pictures. I’m very deliberate about each shot and what I want to capture. The world just falls away when I put the viewfinder to my eye and it’s very calming for me.

PP: Where are some of the places you’ve traveled to?

OK: New Zealand (twice), Alaska, the Pacific Northwest (US and Canada), Fiji, the Caribbean, Europe several times including drives around Ireland and Scotland and a hike around Mont Blanc, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico…

PP: Where are some places you’re hoping to go in the future?

OK: Well, if I can manage it, this fall I want to go to the US Southwest. There is a hike in the Himalayas that we want to do. Patagonia is high on our list as is Africa.

ottok4

PP: If you had to choose just one body and one lens, which would you choose?

OK: That’s a toughie, I love so many of my cameras, but if I had to choose one I’d say my Hasselblad 501CM with an 80mm lens.

PP: What type of photography would you want to become a professional in?

OK: Fine art, whatever exactly that it. That’s what calls me. Most commercial photography doesn’t overly appeal to me. I’ve sold stuff commercially and as fine art prints, but I like to shoot what I want, when I want.

PP: Do you use your bathroom as a darkroom?

OK: No, my kitchen. I have a changing bag that I use to work on film and then I just use the kitchen sink. I eventually would like to convert my attic and add a real darkroom up there. But I have other things that are higher priority on this old house than that.

ottok2

PP: How many mistakes or disasters have you had with film photography?

OK: Oh several. On a Polaroid back for my Holga, I’ve had it unattach exposing the Polaroid film, more than once. On a pinhole I’ve had the “lens” cover fall off, exposing the film again. And a few times I’ve had developing problems, the worst being once using the fixer before the stop bath, actually switching the two mixtures accidentally. That roll was ruined. One of the potential drawbacks of using film that I wouldn’t have with digitial, barring losing or destroying the memory card.

PP: What do you wish you had known when you first started out in photography?

OK: I don’t know. I like where I am right now with my art, and I see the mistakes that I’ve made as the path that got me where I am, warts and all. And hopefully where I’m going.

ottok7

PP: What advice would you give someone starting out in film photography?

OK: Well, for film or digital, I’d say learn what I call the art of slowing down. Give thought to each shot; take your time understanding the composition, focal length, etc. That’s why I like to walk through or around a location before I ever start photographing. Also, learn to shoot in manual mode as that teaches you a lot and gives you way more control over the results. Even if you don’t shoot in manual mode all the time, learning how to do it is a wonderful teacher.

OK: Also, don’t be afraid to take chances, be adventurous. Learn the rules of composition, etc., but also try breaking them. I think that’s partly why I like having so many cameras. Each interprets a scene in its own way and allows me to try new things.

ottok5

PP: What’s on your wishlist right now?

OK: Camera-wise I don’t have much of a wishlist… that is until I see some new (usually old) camera that I didn’t know of or think about until I saw some pictures by it and I’ll usually get it, unless it’s really expensive. Otherwise, I really would like to get a better scanner to scan in my negatives. I have a decent one, but I’d like to have a better one. I’m always on the lookout for a new, good camera bag. I have plenty, but I keep an eye out for the one.

PP: Where do you usually purchase your camera equipment from?

OK: I have two main locations, eBay or KEH. I’ve certainly bought from other places, but these are the two that I have used the most. KEH is local and I know someone who works there, so that’s convenient.

ottok6

PP: Do you follow any photographers online?

OK: Yes, I follow a lot and have been inspired by and become friends with quite a few of them. I enjoy seeing what others are doing. Just a few of them are: 16+ photography, BOXMAN fotologue, eddiemallin, Film is not dead it just smells funny (not a single photographer, but it showcases a wonderful collection of images from different photographers around the world), and Lost in Pixels.

PP: If you could see one person interviewed on PetaPixel, who would you choose?

OK: Tread from gotreadgo. He’s a real hoot. :-)

PP: Is there anything else you’d like to say to PetaPixel readers?

OK: Hmm… shoot for yourself, not for others. You have to please yourself first. If others like it, then that’s wonderful; if they don’t, so what. It’s your art; don’t lose sight of that. I’m pretty sure why I’ve mainly stuck with fine art photography. It had to have some meaning for me.

Interview with Jonathan Greenwald of Shrued

Jonathan Greenwald is the photoblogger behind Shrued.

Portrait by Kathleen Connally.


jonathang

PetaPixel: Can you tell me a little about yourself, your interests, and your background?

Jonathan Greenwald: Sure, I was born in Brooklyn, NY. Growing up, my interests ranged from playing sports, getting into trouble with my friends, and having as much fun as possible. Today, the same holds true with one exception; I no longer live in Brooklyn. I now reside just North of Toronto in Vaughan, Ontario.

PP: What do you do for a living?

JG: I’m a service account manager for Sun Microsystems.

PP: Why is your photoblog called Shrued?

JG: Unfortunately the story is not very interesting. I first discovered photoblogging by visiting photoblogs.org and the first site I visited was Chromasia. I really wanted a cool name for my own photoblog so I started mashing words together to come up with something clever. Somehow I got Shrued and my photoblog was born. In the beginning, everyone felt the need to inform me I incorrectly spelled shrewd. I thought about changing it to avoid these comments, but decided not to in the end.

jong7

PP: How did you first become interested in photography, and what was your first camera?

JG: When I was a teenager, my dad gave me a pentax to play with. I really enjoyed taking photos, changing film, and taking the exposed film to the lab for developing. That’s when I was first really interested in photography. Oddly enough, the interest was lost when I started driving and no longer cared to walk around with a camera around my neck.

PP: What’s in your gear bag nowadays?

JG: Well, to backtrack, it wasn’t until 2005 when I got bored and needed a hobby. Someone told me about the Gates in Central Park, so I borrowed my Dad’s point and shoot and headed over. I showed my family and friends the photos and they convinced me to get back into photography, some 20+ years later. A week later I convinced my dad to take a ride with me to a photography shop and picked up a canon digital rebel 300d. I shot with it for a year and a half and gave it to my dad. I picked up a 20d which is the body I’ve shot with ever since. I also carry a 17-40 and 24-70 lens with me.

jong2

PP: Do you still shoot film?

JG: About 2 years ago I bought a holga and shot a few rolls. I really enjoyed the results; however, not knowing what the results would be until I brought the film into a lab bothered me. I prefer the instant gratification of a digital camera. My dad also gave me a polaroid 103 which was fun to play with and he gave me his pride and joy, the canon ae-1 which growing up I was never allowed to touch. I see others shooting primarily with the ae-1 and sometimes consider it as a backup camera or something to play around with from time to time, but again, I don’t think I have the patience for it.

PP: What is your goal in photography? Why do you shoot?

JG: In the beginning it was all about architecture. My undergrad is in architecture so I was essentially pulled into that area of photography from the onset. It wasn’t until I did a photo walk with one of my photography friends that I discovered street photography, my real passion. I shot a lot of homeless people in nyc and toronto and from that, found myself being asked a lot of questions about the photos. I was interviewed by someone at ABC world news tonight online edition, and several magazines around the world posted my photos with short blurbs about me. I thought about using that experience as a jumping off point into photojournalism until I found myself living in toronto and then moving up north to suburbia.

jong1

PP: Can you tell me about your workflow?

JG: I’m probably one of the most unorganized photographers in the world. I have changed my workflow several times over the course of the past 4 years. At one point, I was pulling images directly from the camera via the digital link to my desktop pc. It wasn’t until I picked-up a macbook pro that I shifted gears and began importing images via iView Media Pro. I didn’t follow any sorting method which was always a big mistake because locating images was always a tedious, labor intensive exercise. I have two backups of my raw (out of camera) images as well as the processed tif (large format) and jpg (web). I think this is where I mention please don’t apply these same techniques on your own. As for the digital workflow or processing, I sort through the photos I have taken. Once again, I shoot a lot. For every 2-3 photos the average photographer snaps, I probably snap 10. I am a big fan of burst shooting as I am always concerned about missing a shot. when I find the photos I want to process, I import the raw files into Photoshop CS4 and typically upsample. I make very limited adjustments in Camera Raw. Most of my processing, as subtle as the modification may be, are done within photoshop. I have been playing around with Lightroom more and more, especially since there are countless plugins which provide instant processing adjustments which would take me hours to recreate.

jong6

PP: Why do you do the bulk of your editing in Photoshop rather than in Camera Raw?

JG: Layers in photoshop allow for better management of the changes. If I make several changes to an image (selective color) unsharpen mask, curves, layers, etc, I can hide each layer to review the various effects. I may adjust white balance and exposure in Camera Raw; however the only real purpose for me is the upsampling.

PP: Can you briefly explain what upsampling is?

JG: I still shoot with an 8mp canon 20d. I am often limited in the size of my prints. Upsampling is an arguably safe way of enlarging the effective megapixels of an image. An 8mp raw image is often 25mp within photoshop after upsampling.

PP: How do you back up your images?

JG: I have two external hard drives: a 1TB and a 350GB drive. I keep a copy of the Raw and processed image on both drives.

jong3

PP: What is your favorite type of photography and why?

JG: I love photos of people. Interactions between individuals can result in the most interesting images. Not all images of people need to be candid; however, it is often the subject who does not realize they are being photographed who provides the most interesting results. NYC and Toronto have their fair share of interesting subjects.

PP: How do you go about taking portraits of strangers on the street?

JG: When I first started photographing strangers, it was via shooting from the hip. Essentially I would hold my camera on my hip and walk past someone I wanted to photograph. 8 times out of 10 I missed the shot; however, when I was lucky enough to capture their image, it was often very rewarding. Today, I’m more aggressive without actually giving the impression I’m photographing someone. First, I never look anyone in the eyes before, during, or after photographing them. I never want them to know I’m taking their photos. Sometimes I pretend to be shooting past the individual. Just another way of avoiding contact. There are exceptions to my shooting style and there have been times when I ask someone if I can take their photo; albeit, these situations are few and far between. I found myself the subject of a heated discussion when an interview I gave about photographing homeless people was released. Most people didn’t favor my style; they seemed to prefer I approach individuals and ask permission. I believe they thought I was exploiting the individual. I tend not to listen to anyone about photographing people on the streets. It really depends what you are after as a photographer and more importantly, your comfort level with your subjects.

jong5

PP: Do you have any awkward or memorable stories from your street photography experiences?

JG: There were a few times when I was approached by people who were not pleased with my camera in their face. I was once chased down 42nd street by a homeless person, and while photographing a dumpster diver in chicago during a photo roam with other photobloggers, the individual, who did not appear to be someone to be taken lightly, began yelling at me. I regretted putting my fellow photobloggers in that position and was glad it didn’t result in a confrontation. I’ve been asked countless times by people if I took their photo and on every occasion, I simply say nope and walk away.

PP: Are there any photographers that you follow online?

JG: Yeah quite a few. durhamtownship, thinsite, ddoi, JVL’s specs, MUTE, wastedphotos, chromasia, and many others. I’ve befriended many of these photobloggers over the past 4 years as a photoblogger.

PP: Who is one person you would like to see interviewed?

JG: Great question. One of my favorite photobloggers and a really great guy is Attila Schmidt of Thinsite. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and the commentary which accompanies his photos are often very funny.

jong4

PP: Do you have anything else you’d like to say to PetaPixel readers?

JG: Have fun and be your own person. Everyone will critique you and offer their “professional” opinion, but at the end of the day, you need to shoot for yourself and determine what your own style of photography will be. There are countless photographers out there who you can learn from and who won’t mind offering their advice; at the end of the day, you want to be recognized for your own creativity. Most of all, never leave your camera at home. I may not always feel inspired or know what you will photograph next; however, there have been plenty of times where the perfect moment was right in front of me and I was unable to capture it. Finally, don’t hesitate to reach out to me if anyone wants to know about a specific photo I have taken or has additional questions about street photography. I still love answering these types of questions and am always humbled when asked about my photography. Thank you for this opportunity.

Interview with Jessyel Gonzales of dailysnap

Jessyel Gonzales is the photographer behind dailysnap.


jessyelportrait

PetaPixel: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Jessyel Gonzales: I’m 25. A guy, in case you were wondering (yes, I have an odd name). Live in Denver, Colorado with my wonderful wife and crazy wiener dog. I’m Mexican-American, and am an editorial and portrait photographer. I also love filmmaking (was a film major in college) and that’s actually where I got my start in still photography (had never held a camera of any type until college).

PP: Does your name have any special meaning?

JG: It’s a mixture of my grandparent’s names – Jesus and Estelle. The ‘y’ in the middle is the Spanish word for ‘AND’.

PP: How did you come to live in Denver?

JG: I was born here. Lived here my whole life. My parents came here from Mexico many years ago.

dailysnap6

PP: What was your first camera?

JG: The first camera I ever used was a Bolex Super 8 (don’t remember the exact model number, though), an 8mm film camera (motion picture). I still remember the first thing I EVER captured through a lens – my girlfriend (who’s now my wife) sitting in a chair. I could only shoot three minutes of footage, and between the cost of the film itself and its processing (and lab fees to edit the footage), it was going to be VERY COSTLY to learn the rules of photography and composition. That’s how still photography began.

PP: Could you list the equipment you currently use?

JG: The equipment doesn’t make the photographer, and the best camera is the one you’re using, but that said – I use a lot of cameras (every one has its purpose). I use a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a wide assortment of lenses, a Canon EOS Elan 7, Hasselblad 500C, Yashica Mat-124, Nikon FM, Leica M3, a Flip MinoHD, and a lot of other trinkets to mull me over.

PP: If you had to stick with one body and one lens, what would you choose and why?

JG: That’s such a difficult question. I’m a film guy – just love the look and the analog/chemical nature of it – but require digital for most of the work that makes me my living. There are many problems with digital (not to mention that any camera I mention now will be ‘obsolete’ in a few years), but I suppose I would have to choose my 5D Mark II. Great camera, has video, and is good for my work. As far as a lens… well, that’s another tough question. I love all types of photography and they all require different focal lengths. In the end, I guess a very fast 50mm prime lens will do just fine.

PP: I guess that leads into my next question. If you had to stick with one medium, would you pick film or digital, and why?

JG: I suppose in the long run, digital wins (can’t believe I just said that). On a personal level, I will always love film and think it will offer things that digital may never in my lifetime, but the immediacy and tech of digital wins me over, especially for the hustle and bustle of the photography (can’t believe I just said hustle and bustle, too). The cost of film is high, finding a competent (and affordable) lab is getting more and more difficult, and you still have to scan everything; too time-consuming. As far as the photographic side of it, digital has an advantage in the way it handles ISO. I can’t even begin to imagine what we’ll see next. 3200 ISO isn’t a problem anymore. I’m getting shots that were near-impossible a few years back. As a professional, digital is the way to go.

dailysnap2

PP: What are the pros and cons of being a professional photographer?

JG: The pro is easy – I get to photograph amazing things and make a living off of it. Dream come true (even though I have MUCH to accomplish). The cons may make me sound like an old geezer, but I’d say the competition and the current state of the industry. Digital means everyone can be a photographer – a great thing. However, there are many people with a camera who call themselves a professional when there’s much to learn and experience. Bidding for jobs has become difficult – between cheap stock photography and some photographers even doing work for free, it’s hard to compete at times. A lot of people don’t take into account the years spent building your portfolio and look, the thousands of dollars of equipment and software (not to mention time learning), the amount of marketing dollars you use, etc. A lot of people don’t take photography as a professional craft per se. You’d never ask a chef as a fancy restaurant to make you a steak for free to ‘test the waters’, but it happens like that with photography. Okay, now I’m babbling and the blood is boiling. Babbobling.

PP: How much time and money does your photography hobby cost you?

JG: Hobby photography? Not too much now (basically just the cost of film when I use it), but it took a lot of money, time and effort to get to where I am today. My photoblog was basically an exercise in photography – showing everyone my progress. Yet, that’s now five years in the making, and I’m still learning a lot. I saved up my pennies to afford my gear, making crazy deals and trades on Craigslist and other sites. It was only until recently when I was able to afford gear without it being an absolute struggle. Gear isn’t the answer (the photographer is), but it sure does make some shoots a lot easier.

dailysnap1

PP: Is there a reason you choose not to have comments on your photoblog?

JG: Out of all the questions I get via email about the site, this is the one that I get the most. I used to have comments on my site (using the standard photoblog template). It was actually useful for a while in getting feedback and constructive criticism on my work. However, after the site started getting popular, it became a struggle. I started thinking there was a correlation between number of comments versus how ‘good’ a photo was (a mistake). Photoblogs were exploding at the time, and it all became a popularity contest. People commenting only to advertise their sites. It was basically SPAM, only with a real human and site behind them. The great feedback was gone. I would receive forty comments that all said ‘nice!’ or ‘good photo’ with nothing else. The site was about a way to improve my photography through community, and I ended up taking the community feature down to become a better photographer. Ironic. I found that by taking away the comments, people who care to say something will via email. No more spamming, no more popularity contests, and I feel this works better for me. Additionally, there is also a great feedback system that works via other sites, like Flickr and Twitter (still some problems as before, but still works much better).

PP: How have you developed as a photographer over the years? What tools, websites, or resources have you used?

JG: Knowing that the Internet is your friend. So many great resources, a lot of inspiration, a lot of feedback and opinions, and many other great photographers that can help/mentor you. Social media has become huge as of late in getting work, and a big thing I’ve learned is that marketing is key in today’s market. It’s no longer about how good a photographer you are (you’d be amazed at how many photoblogs and Flickr streams with quality work are overlooked), but about how you get your work noticed. But again, the power of the internet has provided photography with such an amazing period right now.

dailysnap4

PP: What are some of the best ways to get your work noticed?

JG: Talk to people. Send emails. Introduce yourself. Make comments (only if they’re genuine!) and talk shop. Let people know you exist. Meeting people at workshops/classes is also a great way to get introduced to local photographers. And obviously, don’t forget to shoot during this time. A strong portfolio will still be required. But again, once word of mouth starts spreading, your hard work will pay off. I’ve also been able to get noticed just by having a business card (I use moo.com mini cards that feature your photography). Anytime I’m taking street portraits, I hand them out and tell people I’ll give them a free print of the shot I just took of them. That had lead to many opportunities through unlikely channels. You have to be creative and introduce yourself nowadays – you’re very rarely going to have people knocking at your door otherwise.

PP: What is one thing you’ve learned that caused the biggest improvement in your photography?

JG: Running my photoblog. Without it, I’m not sure what I’d be doing in life right now. It remains an exercise in photography for me – a timeline of photos and seeing what I need to improve upon. Having people contact me and talking about photography has helped. Knowing about film and the many genres of photography has helped me grow and improve. As far as the photographic skill that has made me improve the most? Looking at your scene carefully. I guess that goes without saying, but I used to look at one feature of a scene (say, the subject or a foreground element) and kind of ignored the rest. Heck, I was shooting digital – twenty quick snaps has to produce something, right? Or I also had a mentality of, ‘I’ll fix it in post’. Wrong. Now I try to survey the whole scene; everything in the frame, and make sure the composition works. Doesn’t always end up that way, but seeing everything in the viewfinder (and trying to make a shot work QUICKLY) has made me a better photographer.

dailysnap3

PP: Can you briefly describe your workflow?

JG: My film workflow consists of buying a load of all types of films, then choosing the appropriate one (and camera) for what I want to shoot that day. After I’m done shooting, I either process it myself (B&W, C41) or get a lab to do it (E6). THEN, I scan everything using a Nikon Coolscan 9000 ED. Getting a handful of shots into a digital format will take four hours to many weeks from the shooting stage to now. So we’re now up to the step where I would be with digital. I import everything into Aperture, and make my edits. Once I’ve chosen the shots I want for whatever purpose they’re needed, I do some light post-processing in Photoshop (and use it to get the shots web-ready). Finally, I upload the shots via my CMS online and that’s that. Since I do a lot of film work, you can see why it’s difficult to get stuff up on a timely manner.

PP: Who are your favorite photobloggers?

JG: I really respect Sam Javanrouh at Daily Dose of Imagery. He’s been delivering a quality shot DAILY for over six years now. It’s hard enough to post anything daily, nonetheless GOOD work everyday. I don’t know how he does it. Someone else would be Miles Storey (Mute). Tristan Campbell (Absolutely Nothing) and Kathleen Connally (Durham Township) are my favorite landscape photobloggers. Justin Ouellette (Chromogenic) was my favorite photoblog back in the day – he shot exclusively with film, and it was all just mind-blowing work. He’s what got me started with film and experimenting with photography as a whole. He’s obviously a lot more busy nowadays, so he rarely updates.

dailysnap5

PP: If you could see one person interviewed by PetaPixel, who would it be?

JG: Let’s get Sam Javanrouh at Daily Dose of Imagery interviewed. That would be splendid, no?

PP: Do you have any final thoughts for PetaPixel readers?

JG: Just keep shooting. Don’t be afraid to try out something new or approach new people. I know a lot of editors and photographers will disagree when I say this, but don’t get stuck doing just one genre of photography. Perhaps there can be one you’re really good at, but try them all. Don’t be afraid of street photography. Get that macro and telephoto lens out and see the world in a new way. Try exploring all possibilities. You’ll see how it will improve you all-around. Oh, and don’t do HDR. Seriously… just don’t. :-)

Interview with Nick Campbell of greyscalegorilla

Nick Campbell is the photoblogger behind greyscalegorilla.


nickvegas

PetaPixel: Could you tell me a little about yourself and your background in photography?

Nick Campbell: I’m Nick Campbell, and am currently a designer/animator at Digital Kitchen, which is a motion graphics house in Chicago. We do a lot of TV commercials, animation for TV commercials, TV show openers, and fun stuff like that. I graduated from the Institute of Art in Chicago in ’05 as a designer. I grew up in a suburb of Detroit, moved to Chicago to go to school for motion design, and kind of fell upon photography during that time.

PP: When did you first become interested in visual arts?

NC: I wasn’t a big drawer or anything. I couldn’t draw. In fact, hated photos as a kid. It was always family photos. It was always very posed, and I had just no interest in it. I remember my dad had an SLR on one of those Mikey Mouse straps he always had, and was always taking photos, but I just never caught the bug. I had a Fischer Price camera for about two months, and played around with it, but just never liked it. I think it was the film aspect… I was hyperactive, and the film didn’t really play into that. You had to get it developed and get stuff back.

But, as far as being interested in visual arts, I was always interested in stop motion, playing with the video camera, and making music videos in the basement. That type of stuff was always really interesting to me. There were also computer programs that allowed me to animate and make stuff move around. I was always interested in the movement of things, and playing around with that. I think as a designer or a photographer, I was really late in being interested in that stuff. It was only through wanting to know more about motion, special effects, and that kind of stuff, that I kind of fell into the photography side of it and the design side of it.

gorilla5

PP: Why did you pick the name greyscalegorilla?

NC: Well, it’s an interesting story. The name came about way before the website was around. I think it was maybe ’02 or ’03. There were three of us who lived in Las Vegas for a year. Chad was a roommate, and Chris was a roommate. Chris, a graphic designer, came to us with the name of his brand new website and asked us our opinion on it. The name was PixelPig.com. Might have been PixelPig.net or something… We all kind of didn’t like the name, and were making fun of each other anyway for a living, so we decided to sit and make up better website names than “PixelPig”. He basically based it on wanting an animal and wanting something to do with graphics. We tossed around a bunch of ideas. “RGBWhale”, etc… “grayscalegorilla” came out of it. It was my buddy Chad who said “grayscalegorilla”, and I was like, “I love that name!”. I did a search online, found it was open, and said “you can’t have it, I own it.” It was the second domain I bought, ever. The first was creamyorange, the second was grayscalegorilla. It came off of just a joke, just like that, and sat around for two years until I wanted to have my photoblog. I figured it’d be a good enough reason to use that name.

PP: In what ways has your photoblog changed your life?

NC: I think becoming interested in photos and photography, and having a photoblog, has kind of acted as a diary. It’s really nice to be able to look back on when I was doing a post a day, and really see what I was doing that day. I can really remember a lot of those days, what I was doing that day, and where I was walking. Being new to the city (I moved to Chicago in ’03, and started taking photos right after), it got me out into the city and exploring new parts of Chicago. Up to that point I was kind of going directly from my apartment, to school, to the bar, to my apartment, to school, to the coffee shop, to the bar, and back. I didn’t really get out and about. The photoblog (and forcing myself to post once a day) really got me out shooting different places, trying to capture things I didn’t shoot the day before. I’d say those two things. getting out, seeing the city, and learning where everything was was a huge and fun part for me. The other part that kind of changed my life was that now I have this diary I can go back on. It’s almost four or five years old now, and I can go back through and see stuff I was doing in ’05 or ’04 and remember that day through my photos. It’s been really great for that.

gorilla2

PP: What was your first camera?

NC: Other than the Fischer Price when I was a kid, when I moved to Chicago I bought the Canon SD 100. It was their first little cigarette pack-sized ELPH camera. I think it was two megapixels, and had a CompactFlash card in it with 60 megs on it. Could barely take any photos with it, but I got a good deal on it on eBay. I wanted a pocket camera that I could take around to parties and my friends’ house to shoot stuff and put it up online. I think it was $150 or so, which was pretty good for how small it was in ’03 or ’04. I started shooting friends, out and about, and all kinds of other stuff.

My first camera was that little SD 100 ELPH, and my first SLR camera was the D70. To me it was the first affordable digital SLR. I think I paid $1,500 for it, which in college was a whole bunch of money. I was really passionate about getting a photoblog up, shooting every day, and was shooting a ton of stuff with the little SD camera, so I went and got the D70 with the kit lens. I had that thing until late last year. It was a great camera, and I’d still recommend it. If you find a D70, grab it. They’re pretty similar to the D60 and D50. Great camera. Really good.

PP: What equipment do you use?

NC: I currently have a D700 Nikon, which is Nikon’s first affordable full-frame camera. I got the D700 late last year, and ever since I started with Nikon, I’ve been slowly building up some lenses. I have the 24-70 2.8 (which is kind of the standard walk-around lens), and the 50 1.4 and the 50 1.8 (which are really good lenses for walking around and low-light, indoor stuff). One of my favorite portrait lenses is an 85 1.4. That’s really, really great for portraits. My friends got married last weekend, and I shot some photos with that. It’s amazing what it does. What the 1.4 aperture does is, not only allow a ton of light in under low-light, but also blows out the background and gives you a really shallow depth of field, isolating what you’re focusing on from the background and from the foreground.

Other stuff that I have is a Ray ring flash, which is a flash attachment that goes around your lens and gives you a ring-flash look. I have a couple hot-shoe strobes/speedlights, miscellaneous bags, other small lenses. I have a 20mm lens. I actually have a video where I went through all my gear. In it you can see most everything I use.

gorilla3

PP: Why Nikon instead of Canon?

NC: It was a really close decision when I bought my first SLR. The two affordable cameras were the first Canon Digital Rebel that was getting close to a thousand bucks and the D70. I was looking at that one, but everyone recommended that I spend the extra money and get the D70. At the time it had some extra features: faster shutter release, etc… It was just that next step up. I played around with the Canon and played around with the Nikon. I ended up with the Nikon mainly because I like the way Nikon’s interface is, and the way they’re laid out. Canon just didn’t seem right to me, even though the ELPH I had was a Canon. I pretty much assumed I was going to get a Canon until I tried out the D70. It felt right, weighed a little more, felt a little better in my hands, and wasn’t as plasticy as the Rebel at the time. I think it was kind of by chance that I fell into Nikon. I think once you have a brand and start buying lenses, you kind of just continue down that road.

Canon has some pretty cool stuff out with the video modes. I would love to have HD video on my camera. That would be awesome, but I stick with Nikon because when I’m taking photos, I know where everything is, I have the lenses for it, I have the knowledge for it, and I like the way they work.

PP: If you had to pick only one body and one lens, what combination would you choose and why?

NC: It’s kind of a tossup. I might grab the 50mm 1.4 and my D700, just because it’s super lightweight and I can walk around and shoot almost anything with it. But I would be tempted to instead pick the 24-70 lens to walk around with. If I had to live with one more lens for the rest of my life, I would have to cheat and get a zoom lens, the 24-70, just so I could shoot portrait stuff, zoom out and shoot landscape, and get everything. But I really do like putting the 50 on and walking around.

gorilla6

PP: Can you describe your workflow?

NC: If I’m shooting for fun, I’ll try to limit myself and just grab one, maybe two, lens(es), my charged up camera (card empty), walk outside and pick a new, fun place to go. I’ll slow down, walk around, and shoot stuff. I tend to shoot a lot of buildings, cars, junk on the street, trains, etc… I like shooting train tracks and the industrial area I live near. That’s kind of my photo process.

Once I see a subject, I’ll try different angles. I’ll get it back lit, front lit, close on it, details, and try to shoot some different styles. Sometimes it’s kind of nice to have an excuse to climb around, sneak over across the railroad tracks, up onto a bridge, and figure out how to get to a certain place to get a shot of a particular thing. That’s my walking around process.

Of course, I shoot some friends’ weddings, and some event photography as well. That’s kind of a different situation, a little more focused on people. I have more fun shooting whatever and just walking around.

As far as shooting, if I take a shot, look at the camera, and see that the photo on the back is a little dark or a little bright, I’ll use my exposure adjustment to open up or close the lens just a bit. I usually shoot in aperture mode, where I select the aperture I want to use, and the camera will take care of the shutter speed itself. Actually, the new D700 Nikon has a really great feature where it will lock the aperture (the size of the opening in the lens) and the shutter speed (how fast the photo is taken), and will just move the ISO (the sensitivity of the camera). I can shoot indoors and outdoors, and just walk around and shoot stuff without having to worry too much about adjusting a bunch. I usually shoot wide open for everything… I like the narrow depth of field.

I’ll shoot a hundred or so photos at a location, come home, and stick the card in. Lately I’ve been using Aperture. Sometimes I just go directly to Bridge. It goes into an organization area and I’ll go through the photos, picking which ones I like. I’ll usually go through first and mark them with a 3, saying “these are okay”, “these pass the test of being not blurry”, or “I like the layout of these”. Then I’ll go through the 3 starred ones, and mark the 4s. The 4s are the ones that really stand out. Usually I’ll have four of the same subject that I like that are all marked 3. I’ll say “this is my favorite one”, mark it 4, and move forward.

Usually I’ll go from there to Photoshop where I start to color correct, crop, fix things, brighten things, darken things, change the color around, try black and white versions, and just play around with it until it looks cool to my eye. Then I’ll save a full size version, shrink it down for the web version, sharpen it one last time for web, save it, and post it to my blog using PixelPost. I also have a video of my process.

gorilla1

PP: What is one thing you’ve learned that has had the biggest positive impact on your photography?

NC: I’d probably say embracing limitations. It’s my new thing that has really helped me a lot. I got into a funk walking around and shooting because I’d just ended up with the same shots over and over again. I’d frame up a building the same way, stand in the corner and get a wide angle shot of it. I had new locations and went to new places, but I’d shoot them in the same way.

What I started doing was imposing self-limitations that would force me to think a different way when I shot. I remember one day I went out and shot nothing but shadows of things and not the actual thing itself. Another day I went out and said I would take ten frames. I was kind of liking how using film would limit yourself on how many photos you could take. With digital you can fill up a card and have 400, 500 photos. With film you have 36 or, with the medium format I was using, 10 or 12 shots. Limiting yourself in a certain aspect really pulls the creativity out. That helped me out a lot in my photography.

PP: What would you most like the opportunity to photograph?

NC: I used to live near Detroit, and would get jealous of everyone sneaking into the odd places of Detroit, shooting the abandoned warehouses, train tunnels, and all that stuff. That seems fun to me. A little scary, a little fun. I like the urban decay, industrial aspect, of it. I guess that’d be fun. I’d probably pick that.

I also just like shooting when I’m on vacation in new places. I can’t think of where I’d love to go right now, but yeah. I’ll just say Detroit, that’s a good answer.

gorilla4

PP: What is the question you’re asked most regarding photography?

NC: It would be “what camera do you use?” and “what camera do you recommend?”, which is tough. I’m kind of sick of answering that question in a way. I think a lot of people think the camera makes the photo, and think, “whoah, your stuff looks really good. You must have a really good camera!”, or “what camera do you use? I want to buy the same camera.” I always point out that more than 80% of my website was shot with a D70, which is 5-6 year old technology. In fact, the only print I have for sale was taken in JPG mode, on my first camera, in the first couple months that I had it, and on the wrong white balance setting.

So it’s a question I’m sick of answering, just because I’d rather talk about the other parts of it. Even other technical parts of it are more important than what camera you use. Learning what aperture is, what shutter speed is, how to use flashes, how to model light, and all those things are more fun to talk about than what the latest camera technology is. However, that’s by far the most popular question.

PP: Who are your favorite photographers?

NC: Quarlo. I’m not sure if he’s still updating his site, but he really got me into shooting film, cross processing, shooting objects. He’s really good with shadow too, and has a lot of black shadowing and stuff like that.

There’s also another guy that shoots nothing but large format portraits. Greg Miller. He walks around with an 8×10 camera, and shoots portraits of people he sees. He poses them, puts them in really great positions, sets a scene up, gets this 8×10 camera (a huge chunk of film), sets it up, waits for the sun to be perfect, then takes these really beautiful shots.

Check out Greg Miller and Quarlo.

I’m not traditionally trained in photography or anything. I don’t know my names or my history of photography people. Like I said, it was never a passion of mine until I saw what these people online were doing, and I started thinking, “well, I can do that!”. I think it was chromasia, a really popular photoblog guy. I came across his site in ’03. His site was the one where I said “those look pretty cool. I think I could do that actually. I think I could pull that off”.

So, check those dudes out.

gorilla7

PP: If you could choose one photographer to be interviewed by PetaPixel, who would it be and why?

NC: Man. I’d love to see an interview with Quarlo. He doesn’t even do interviews, but if you could get him on there, that’d awesome. I’m not sure if he’s still shooting or what he’s doing, but Quarlo man, he’s my guy. He was really helpful too. I had some questions when I got into film, and he took time to answer some questions, so I appreciate that. Seems like a good guy.

PP: Do you have anything else you’d like to share with PetaPixel readers?

NC: For me, photography and this whole thing came about by accident. I tend to obsess over things for three months at a time. Photography became that thing for me. I obsessed over it, and forced myself to post a photo a day. I did that for almost three years. That was the best way to learn everything. I didn’t study photography, and the only thing I knew about composition was what I learned in film school. I figured, “what better way to learn about composition than to grab a camera and force myself to shoot every day?”. As far as being a designer, being an animator, and being in the film industry, it’s the best thing I did for my sense of composition, color, and framing. It’s really a great way to learn a lot.

Now, with how cheap everything is, you can get a Nikon D50 with a kit lens for 600 bucks at Costco or something. It’s basically a D70, the same camera I shot a ton of photos with. It’s exciting. If you’re interested in photography, I would totally grab an SLR and start shooting. I just can’t imaging learning with film. It’s one of the reasons I never got into it. With digital you can learn and screw up a billion times, look at the back of the camera, and can at least look at it and say, “well, that doesn’t look good”. You can try different things and learn through making a million mistakes. I think that’s the best way to do it.

MIOPS: Smartphone Controllable High Speed Camera Trigger

MIOPS is a new smartphone-controlled camera trigger that combines all of the features photographers want in a high-speed camera trigger into one convenient device.

Read more…

Interview with Kathleen Connally of A Walk Through Durham Township

Kathleen Connally is the photographer behind A Walk Through Durham Township, Pennsylvania, a photoblog that has been chosen as “Photoblog of the Year”, “Best American Photoblog”, and “Best Landscape Photography” by numerous publications.

Portraits taken by Ajit Anthony Prem.


kathleen

PetaPixel: Can you tell me a little about yourself and your background?

Kathleen Connally: I’ve lived in a 230-year old house in Bucks County, Pennylvania, for the last ten years, and have focused my camera on tiny Durham Township during that time. My photoblog is a love letter to where I live. I include my son, my neighbors, nieces and nephews in the photos, too, in my attempt to document this space, this place in time, through my eyes.

I work as a photographer when I’m not busy caring for my home and my son, who is eight years old. I really enjoy commercial and editorial photography and try to fit as much in as possible to pay the bills. But I also volunteer as a Penn State Master Gardener, as an advocate for preserving open space in Pennsylvania, as a Cub Scout leader, a Little League bench coach, a member of the township’s Environmental Advisory Council.

I’m also an artist-in-residence at the James A. Michener Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where I teach about contemporary landscape photography, and I teach on a variety of photographic topics at various other locations including high schools, universities, etc.

durham3

PP: How did you first get into photography?

KC: I got my first camera, a Polaroid Land camera, for a Christmas gift when I was seven years old. I’ve had a camera in my hands ever since! Something “clicked” (pun intended) as soon as I started taking my first photos – I knew I was doing what I was meant to be doing.

As a kid, I stole my dad’s AGFA, as well as his 8mm movie camera and projector until I got my first 35mm (Pentax K1000, of course) when I was 15. I took a darkroom course in high school and ended up developing my own film for a long time, which I loved. Up until the early 2000s, I shot mostly Ektachrome but plenty of B&W, too. In 2003 I got my first digital camera, realized I could experiment without limit, and pretty much put the film cameras to rest as I developed my education (empirically) in digital technology.

I still shoot film on occasion – actually purchased my dream film camera, a Hasselblad 503cw a couple of years ago with the proceeds from a big commercial job – so I still love (lerve) film, but I am equally in love with digital now, too, because I can so easily handle it and turn it around.

durham8

PP: What was the digital camera you got in 2003?

KC: I got a little Canon Elph Powershot. I carried it in my pocket literally everywhere I went and probably shot 100,000 images on that thing before I started using my first DSLR, the Nikon D100.

PP: How much traffic does your photoblog receive?

KC: Somewhere in the region of 2 to 3 million visitors a year but I’ve stopped keeping track at this point so I can focus on things that are more meaningful, like the photography!

PP: Wow. How much email do you receive from your fans?

KC: I have never stopped to count but it’s enough that I can’t answer it all and do my other work, haha. I wish I could. When students email, I give them priority, because I want to encourage them.

I’m not sure I’d call it ‘fan mail’, though – many times it’s just questions about gear, settings, etc., or a request to look at a portfolio. I’d call it ‘curiousity mail’ instead.

durham5

PP: What are some of the most common questions or comments you receive?

KC: Common questions include “Do you hold classes?” or “What lens/camera, etc., do you recommend?” Comments run the gamut from enjoying that I’ve focused my camera on one area, that the photos remind them of when they grew up, that it’s been fun to watch my progress with digital photography, that my models are pretty or handsome (haha), or wondering whether Durham Township is more beautiful than other areas of the world and that they’d like to visit one day. Also, I hear “I just spent an hour of my work time at your site.” Haha. The best ones are when people tell me they have a new appreciation for open space, for farming, for nature, etc., and they understand why it’s important to protect those things. (That’s my ultimate goal with this project.)

There are too many to list but those come to the top of my head. A quick read through my site’s Guestbook will give you a good idea of what I get.

PP: Tell me about your workflow.

KC: Pretty simple workflow. I have RAID drives, I also back up to a separate external drive once a week. So everything is triple backed up as soon as it’s out of the camera. I use Adobe Bridge to manage the files, Adobe Photoshop CS4 to apply very basic adjustments to RAW files (I shoot RAW+JPEG). Image files are sorted into folders labeled by year, month, day and some tag such as “CORNFIELD_MORNING_FOG”. I keep separate WORK folders arranged the same way to separate the original digital negatives from the files I’ve made adjustments.

durhamprocess

PP: What equipment do you currently use?

PP: I use two Canon 5Ds, a Canon 5D Mark II, a Canon EOS 3 film camera and a whole bunch of L-series lenses on all of them. I also use a Hasselblad 503cw film camera and am hoping to get a digital back for it one day. I also use a bunch of old toy cameras (Holga, Diana, etc.) and pretty much anything fun I can get my hands on at a junk sale or thrift store, although I don’t usually share those photos on-line. Just a time issue or I would – scanning, etc., takes more time than I have right now. For commercial jobs I usually rent a Canon 1Ds Mark II or Mark III and whatever L-series lenses I need for the work.

PP: What’s your favorite lens?

KC: Canon 50mm f/1.2L or Canon 85mm f/1.2L. They’re both as dreamy as can be.

PP: What’s the least favorite lens that you own?

KC: Hmmm… don’t have a least favorite or I would get rid of it.

durham4

PP: Why are you a Canonite and not a Nikonian?

KC: My first DSLR was a Nikon D100, which was fantastic at the time, but then Canon came out with the 5D right at the time I needed to upgrade. (I actually wore out the Nikon D100.) When I heard the Canon 5D was full-frame, I got one of the first ones off the assembly line! It’s still one of my workhorses! Anyway, that’s the main reason I switched. Nothing to do with brand loyalty, really, or caring about being a “Canonite” or “Nikonian.” They’re both great companies with great products; Canon just had what I needed when I needed it, so I invested with them. Good timing on their part, haha.

durham1

PP: What would you say is the one thing you’ve learned that has had the biggest positive impact on your photographs?

KC: Do you mean technically or spiritually?

PP: Both.

KC: Technically, I’ve learned that you must be intimate with the gear you’re using, and you must put it to test in every conceivable environment. You have to know what every button does and what the result will be from pushing it. You cannot skimp on educating yourself about every aspect of your gear, and you cannot skimp on practicing. 100% immersion gives you the results you want, eventually.

Spiritually, I’ve learned that you have to BE where you are. You’ve got to live in the moment, go with the flow and that’s when the most amazing photographs are taken. You can’t direct anything, you have no control over anything, you cannot stage a great photograph. Life hands you great photographs when you respect that you’re not the one in control of them! When you try to control the result you don’t have access to your creative side, to the very well-informed right brain which gives you insanely beautiful ideas and messages. Those only come when you’re at peace with your surroundings, yourself.

durham2

PP: How about regarding post-processing?

KC: When I first got into digital technology, I started out post-processing my images like crazy. This helped me learn the yin/yang relationship there. By pushing it to the limit, by learning every single knob & dial in Photoshop, I also learned how to do the best work with the least amount of post-processing. When I look at my early digital work it makes me scream and run for the hills, haha, but I also know the lessons I learned by doing that, and how it educated me. So right now I have no desire and very little need to post-process my images. I’ve practiced so relentlessly with my camera – in my given environment, but certainly not everywhere – that I can turn an image around from camera to a finished work in just a few minutes. I apply only the adjustments that I used to apply to my B&W work in a darkroom – contrast, tone, etc., with the curves adjustment tool. I like to think of myself as a processor, not a post-processor now. My goal is to do almost everything in-camera, including handling the exposure and composition to the point that Photoshop is irrelevant. That doesn’t always work but I am motivated to work toward it. I hate sitting in front of a monitor if I can be outside shooting!

PP: Who is your favorite historical photographer?

KC: Heavens, that’s like asking what my favorite film is. Not possible to name one person, but I can rattle off a good list: Alfred Stieglitz, Carleton Watkins, Robert Doisneau, Lartigue, Dorothea Lange, Margaret Bourke-White, Lee Friedlander, Eggleston… I could keep going but I’ll stop for now. I love too many of them!

durham6

PP: Who are some of your favorite photobloggers?

KC: Joes NYC, Istoica, Fourteen Places to Eat, Myopicus, and Chromogenic.

PP: If you could see one person interviewed on PetaPixel, who would it be?

KC: Joe Holmes, Joe’s NYC.

PP: Is there anything else you would like to say to PetaPixel’s readers?

KC: If you want to be a good photographer, or a great photographer, or even just a working photographer, STOP listening to ANYONE who tells you it’s not possible, that the field is too full, that the benchmarks are too high now, etc. Listen to YOURSELF. Do you love photography? Do you have something to say with it? Then do it. No whining about not getting paid. If you love it, do it because you love it, not because you’re waiting on a paycheck. Do it and make it public. Show your work. If you’re TRULY passionate about it, and you practice, hone your skills and your message, get yourself out there – you will get work. Remember the Woody Allen saying, too – 80% of life is just showing up. SHOW UP! If you ever need a pep talk, email me – I tell that to everyone – because I truly believe that EVERYONE has an important voice. Everyone also needs encouragement now and then.

Ghandi once said something like ‘Be the change you want to see in this world.’ Your voice and your talent are important to this world.

durham7

Interview with Justin Ouellette of Chromogenic

Justin Ouellette is the photoblogger behind Chromogenic.


PetaPixel: Tell me about yourself

Justin Ouellette: I’m a designer, originally from Portland, OR and now living in Chinatown, New York. I’ve been doing photography for about 10 years, and mostly work with film. In the last couple years I’ve been doing more web design. My biggest project last year was Muxtape, a site for making & sharing personal mixes. Photographically I like working with people and bands. I’m mostly interested in intersections between music, photography and technology.

081008

PP: How did you first get into photography?

JO: I was lucky enough to go to a high school that offered photography, and also had an amazing instructor. It was just before digital started becoming something more than a novelty and we learned everything in The Old Way, developing our own film and making filter charts in a darkroom. I never stopped after that. The internet was already an incredible resource and fueled an insatiable appetite to learn everything I could about photography.

PP: What was your first camera?

JO: Pentax ME and 50mm f/1.8

PP: What do you use now?

JO: Hasselblad 500C/M mostly, also an Olympus Stylus Epic and Canon EOS-1N. I’ve experimented with a lot of cameras over the years but I think the Hasselblad is going to stay with me for the long haul.

PP: So you mostly shoot medium-format now?

JO: Yeah, I see the world in squares these days. I still enjoy the honesty of 35mm, though.

090531

PP: Could you briefly explain to PetaPixel readers what medium-format is, and what you feel the biggest pros and cons are?

JO: Medium format is a film size that’s much larger than 35mm but still small enough that it can come on rolls and be used with cameras that have more convenient operation than the typical large format setup, which uses single-exposure sheets 4×5″ and up. It usually means much higher quality images at the expense of having a huge choice of lenses and automatic niceties and accessories, like a light meter. It’s also a bit harder to scan and print, but not as hard as large format.

Subjectively, medium format negatives are much richer and more painterly, and the physics of light passing through a larger piece of glass and striking a larger surface make for images that feel distinctly different. I also like that the sometimes-awkward nature of the larger gear forces you into a more methodical process; if nothing else you’re forced to think more about each exposure and take them more seriously. It comes through in the final result.

PP: When did you start Chromogenic?

JO: 2003

PP: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned through years of maintaining the photoblog?

JO: I’ve learned a lot about organizing and editing my own work, which I’ve concluded is half the skill of photography. I’ve also learned that telling the stories of our lives through pictures is something that taps deeply into human nature, and a photoblog is just one way to do it.

070604

PP: Can you briefly describe your workflow?

JO: I develop black and white film in my bathroom, and color film I take to a lab around the corner. Either way I wind up with a long strip that I cut into threes and scan on a Nikon 9000. Usually I’ll do a quick preview of every frame (12 per roll), then go back and do a 4000dpi “for real” scan with anti-newton glass for the ones I like. From there I’ve got a neutral 81 megapixel TIFF in AdobeRGB which I color-correct in Photoshop. I use curves and try to make as natural adjustments as I can, and my final step is flattening, resizing, a little unsharp mask, and saving an sRGB jpeg.

PP: What’s the most common question you’re asked regarding Chromogenic or photography?

JO: Camera and/or film recommendations are a common question. It’s hard to answer because it’s a very personal preference, there’s no best film or camera. I try to encourage people to experiment and go with what feels right.

080625

PP: What do you think is the most valuable piece of advice you could give an aspiring photographer?

JO: Try everything once.

PP: Is there any one thing you’ve learned that has benefited your work the most?

JO: I’ve learned a lot of things over the years, but the importance of editing definitely sticks out for me. It can be tremendously hard to choose one good image of out dozens of similar variations, but the impact of presenting a single, cohesive frame can’t be understated.

PP: Who are your favorite photobloggers?

JO: Todd Gross (quarlo.com) is an all-time favorite, I also like Eliot Shepard (slower.net), Yamasaki Ko-ji (uwaa.org), Peter Baker (treemeat.com), and many others. I’ve been enjoying ckck.tumblr.com lately as well.

PP: If you could see one person interviewed on PetaPixel, who would it be?

JO: Bruce Gilden.

061204

PP: What is the favorite photograph you’ve taken, and why?

JO: I don’t have an all-time favorite, there are definitely some photos that stand out to me as representative for certain eras of my life, though. I think any photographer’s personal favorites have more to do with unspoken connections they may have with them; I know the photos that mean the most to me probably won’t for someone on the outside.

PP: What’s your favorite kind of photography?

JO: I love photos of people. I don’t know a word for it but my favorite kind of photography is the kind that tells a story in a single frame and feels simultaneously effortless and perfectly focused. It can be a true story or not, its plausibility is more important. It can happen equally on the street or in a studio.

PP: Does the fact that you shoot with a Hasselblad make taking photographs of strangers on the street easier?

JO: It can be a conversation piece (especially in New York where you see a lot of interesting cameras about town), but taking photos of strangers on the street isn’t a big part of what I do. Some people are brilliant at it, for me it’s hard enough to capture the people I know.

PP: What has been your biggest mistake so far in your photographic journey?

JO: I always feel like I could devote more time to it. Missed opportunities are the biggest mistakes. Overall though, photography for me is a lot about trial and error and that means making lots of little mistakes over time.

080731

PP: Do you have any tips on how a photographer or photoblogger should publicize their work and build a readership?

JO: Build it and they will come. There’s no magic formula to publicizing yourself, focus on doing quality work and the rest will fall into place. Connecting with the rest of photoblogging community doesn’t hurt, either (most people looking at photoblogs are photographers themselves).

PP: Do you have any other advice you would like to share with PetaPixel readers?

JO: Try every weird technique, try all the films, try things outside your comfort zone. It’s easy to get hung up on the “right way” to do things, but it’s important to remember that photography is a highly personal pursuit and there’s really no rules. Exposing a little piece of your individuality will make you a far more successful photographer than any amount of dry, technical prowess.

Interview with Zac Doob of photoflavor

Zac Doob is the photoblogger behind photoflavor.


photoflavor-zac_play

PetaPixel: Can you tell me a little about yourself and your background?

Zac Doob: Sure. I grew up in Ithaca NY and eagerly moved to Boston to attend Boston University after I graduated high school. I got a degree in Sociology, but my focus was on playing in bands. I’ve been a piano player my whole life and was thrilled to be in such a music-friendly city where I could play with various groups and gig in all types of venues.

Throughout college and for several years after, I was trying to ‘make it’ as a professional musician. One of the necessities in promotions is design. I quickly discovered that I had a passion and a talent for exploring my creative side with imagery. This was initially uncovered while creating posters and flyers etc.

When the web became a viable means to promote my music, I dove head-first into web design. I soon found myself becoming a successful web designer, with music shifting to more of a hobby. Being submersed in the principles of design, combined with countless hours working in Photoshop would eventually prove to be a foundation to build upon with a camera.

PP: How did you specifically get started with digital photography?

ZD: While my amazing wife was completing her degree in Illustration at the Ringling College of Art and Design, she realized that it would be helpful to have a digital camera to use for photo references. Since we already had a film SLR, I thought it made more sense to just get a little pocket-sized camera so we could just take it anywhere. Thankfully, she insisted that she needed more control than one of those would offer, so we bought the ever-so-popular Canon Digital Rebel.

PP: Do you still use that Rebel? What’s in your gear collection now?

ZD: The Rebel has been semi-retired. It was an awesome camera, and I still use it when I need to have an additional body. I shot a wedding a while back and it was helpful to leave a long lens on the Rebel and use my 30D for the wider stuff.

Most of my gear is very typical… Aside from those two Canon bodies, I have a 17-40f/4, 70-200f/4, 50f/1.8, the original Lensbaby, a Sigma flash, Bogen/Manfrotto tripod, and some close-up filters that screw onto the 50mm lens. Like most photographers, I have a decent sized wish list of very expensive gear.

An interesting gear-related anecdote…

A few years ago, while I was very heavily into photoblogging, I mentioned in a post on the photobloggers Google group that I was interested in exploring medium format film. I asked for recommendations so that I could search Ebay for a cheap camera to play with. The next day, a fellow photoblogger who I had never met emailed me and asked if I wanted to borrow his Yashica 124G! He said it was just sitting on his shelf collecting dust – and that he’d rather see it in the hands of someone who would use it. I was floored by his generosity. Here is his site, here is the camera, and here is a shot taken with the camera.

PP: Can you tell me about your workflow?

ZD: My workflow varies depending on my mood, available time, types of photos… I wouldn’t say that I have a rigid process. With that said, I always shoot RAW. Generally, I move all of the photos from a shoot onto my Mac and open them in Adobe Bridge. I’d love to find time to explore Aperture or Lightroom, but just haven’t had an opportunity. Once in Bridge, I go through and delete the ones that are obviously garbage. While I’m going through that initial pass, I’ll star a few that have some initial impact or look like they can work with a little (or a lot of) Photoshop effort. If I’m feeling particularly creative or have a desire to be working with Photoshop, I’ll find an image that has a strong composition and the right kind of feeling to it that will serve as a starting point to do something interesting with. Take this image for example:

photoflavor-creepybird

It was a very uninspiring photograph, but had the potential to be something very interesting. With some curves and levels, I was able to take a fairly stupid photo of a gull and turn it into something most people would spend more than a second looking at.

Keeping with the gull theme, here is a photo where the only processing was done in the RAW conversion:

photoflavor-gull

It was another rather boring photograph, but the way the light fell made is possible to simply adjust the exposure and shadows to produce this intimate portrait of a bird. Is it an amazing photograph? No, but I like how it turned out.

Then there are some photos which can stand on their own feet without any real adjustments at all. I am usually really psyched when those happen. Here are a few:

photoflavor-gatorstare

photoflavor-fawn

photoflavor-egretshadow2

photoflavor-cactuscut

photoflavor-ospreyfishfly

These are all ‘right place right time’ kinds of shots – and really mean a lot to me.

What I find most appealing about photography is that I am able to capture something so personal and intimate. If you think about it… I am the only person in the history of time, and in all time moving forward that will ever have seen this exact perspective – at this precise moment. I’m able to share that with people, which is great… but more importantly, I am able to revisit that exact moment in time from the very same perspective.

Sometimes the subject may be just a fluorescent light:

photoflavor-studiolights

or a weed in the sidewalk:

photoflavor-clover

other times it may be the morning after marrying the woman of my dreams:

photoflavor-sleepboquet

Regardless… these are personal, intimate moments between me and the other side of the lens – which I get to relive by browsing through my photo collection.

There’s a very strong parallel with writing music for me. One of the greatest sensations I experience is when I write a piece of music. As I’m playing it (or listening back to it if I have recorded it) I find great pleasure in the intimacy of the fact that I am the only one who has heard this. I can decide not to play it for anyone else, and keep it all for myself — knowing that I am the only person who has ever heard this piece of music… played this way.

PP: What is one thing you’ve learned that has had the greatest positive impact on your photography?

ZD: Hmmm… good question.

Recognizing that photography can be whatever I want it to be. What I mean is that I’m not taking photos for anyone other than myself. Obviously there are times (like doing commercial or wedding shoots) where this doesn’t apply as much, but overall I am in control of the images I make. Photography can be anything from a casual snapshot to a form of personal/ artistic expression – and it’s all equally valid.

PP: What is one piece of gear you’d most like to have?

ZD: Since I love shooting wildlife… probably a super telephoto lens… like the 600f/4 IS or something crazy like that.

PP: Who are some of the people whose work you follow online?

ZD: A Walk Through Durham Township, DailySnap, friskyPics, MUTE, No Traces, and The G8.

PP: What are some websites or software programs you’ve found invaluable?

ZD: Well, aside from Photoshop… I use a photoblogging script called photoblogger – which is now called Sylverblog. It was around way before a lot of these other options surfaced, and provided me with an opportunity to learn PHP. I actually ended up contributing to some of the functionality found in the latest version… though I have yet to upgrade since mine is so heavily customized at this point.

As for websites, this interview wouldn’t be complete without a huge nod to Brandon Stone. He has done so much for the photoblogging community – and I am forever grateful for the websites, connections, photography, communities etc. that he has created. There are tens of thousands of photographs I likely would never have seen if it weren’t for Brandon.

PP: If you could see one person interviewed on PetaPixel, who would it be?

ZD: I think Bob from No Traces would be a great read. He’s just so passionate about photography.

PP: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

ZD: Yes. The past decade has dramatically changed the world of photography in so many ways. The instant gratification and affordability of digital cameras has substantially increased the accessibility of photography. The sheer number of people with cameras, combined with the prevalence of the web equates to an
enormous pool of insanely talented photographers sharing their imagery online through photoblogs and sites like Flickr. It’s an exciting time to be at the crossroads of web technology and image making. I strongly encourage people to explore what others are doing and consider sharing their own work with the world.